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2020 Lincoln Aviator: Flying with Hybrid, Electric Wings

By Sue Mead, September 21st, 2019

"Punch it," instructed my motoring partner, industry veteran Bob Gritzinger, who is an engine expert and wanted to check out the performance of the new midsize sport utility we were testing.

We were on a 250-mile drive in the Napa, Calif., region and approaching a straight swath of roadway, with no other vehicles in sight. I pushed the throttle and the 2020 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring practically flew.

Most striking was not the speed it effortlessly achieved, but the quiet glide coming from its potent electric power; Aviator's hybrid powerplant has 494 horsepower and 630 lb.-ft. of torque on tap and it can travel up to 20 miles in electric range. Now, that's impressive.

The newest Aviator is far from a re-badged version of Ford's Explorer, although it shares the same platform. Ford's upscale division has stamped this midsizer with a unique, premium design, along with numerous technology offerings, luxurious trims and finishes outside and in, and endowed it with go-juice that comes from two robust powerplants. If the name sounds familiar, Lincoln sold an Aviator model from 2002-2005, based on the Mercury Mountaineer.

Lincoln says the latest Aviator rendition defines graceful performance among premium SUVs, a class of vehicles that is ever-growing in the American market. The team's design and engineering goals were to make the Aviator a scaled down Navigator, the flagship SUV in Lincoln's portfolio that has won numerous awards and been blessed by runaway sales.

The 2020 Aviator is priced starting close to $51,000 and tops out in the $90,000 range. It can accommodate six to seven passengers, and is available in five trims: Standard, Reserve, Black Label, Grand Touring, and Grand Touring Black Label. Standard, Reserve, and Black Label versions come with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

With rear-wheel drive standard and all-wheel drive optional on the Standard and Reserve, all Black Labels come with all-wheel-drive. In the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Black Label models, a 494-horsepower, 630 torque plug-in hybrid based on the naturally aspirated V-6 pumps up the performance. Both powertrains are mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and bring smooth, seamless shifting through the gears and higher, more pumped-up performance, when dialed in by the driver.

A number of stand-out features are available in the Aviator Grand Touring Black Label: I liked the seven distinct drive modes that allow drivers to choose their preference depending on mood, different road conditions, and interest in fuel economy. Normal drive mode actively adapts to driver inputs and assesses driving style, automatically adjusting the vehicle to drive dynamically. Conserve is geared for efficiency, with a throttle response that is less aggressive and tuned to favor fuel savings, while Excite is calibrated for a performance feel; steering feel, throttle response, and suspension are tuned to be more aggressive and responsive.

When equipped with Air Glide suspension, the vehicle's height is also adjustable. Slippery delivers stability for slick conditions, while Deep Conditions is engineered for deep snow or mud and tweaks the throttle response, increases engine braking and raises the ride height (with Air Glide). The Grand Touring brings two hybrid modes: Preserve EV that accentuates battery power and Pure EV, an all-electric mode.

Also of note is Adaptive Suspension with Road Preview, an advanced suspension system that utilizes a camera and sensor road preview, along with pothole mitigation to keep the ride smooth and refined. Adaptive Suspension adds 12 sensors that read road conditions and input up to 500 times per second. This Lincoln-first technology gives the vehicle a front-facing camera that can detect surface deviations between 2 and 8 inches up to 50 feet ahead. Air Glide replaces traditional springs with a system that allows for ride-height changes and brings Dynamic Lower Entry, which lowers the vehicle to greet the driver on approach.

The three-row Aviator has standout styling in the premium crossover class. Up front is a bold mesh grille punctuating a sleek body accented by a chrome strip on the sides below large windows that provide good greenhouse when inside.

Clever is Lincoln's "phone as a key" feature that allows your cellphone to act as a smart key, eliminating the need for a traditional key. This can store seat preferences, control remote start, and allow entry into the car. In the case of dead phone batteries, access codes can be entered into the keypad.

Specifications

Base price $68,800 (as tested: $69,985)
Curb weight 5,678 lbs.
Displacement 3.0-liter
Engine type Plug-in Hybrid V-6
Epa mileage rating TBD
Fuel capacity 18 gal.
Horsepower (net) 494
Overall length 199.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 630
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Vehicle type 6/7-passenger AWD midsize SUV
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